Book Alert! “150 Questions about the Psalter” – Bradley Johnston

150-Questions-Psalter-Johnston-2014As book review editor for The Standard Bearer, we recently received a complimentary copy of a new publication from Crown & Covenant Publications titled 150 Questions about the Psalter: What You Need to Know about the Songs God Wrote (2014, 112 pgs., $9.00). The author is Bradley Johnston, a pastor in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, an exclusive Psalm-singing denomination.

The publisher provides this brief summary of the book on its website:

Who wrote the psalms, and why? Can we find Jesus in the Psalter? How do these ancient songs matter today?

In the style of a catechism, this books draws you into the majestic, meditative depths of the inspired songs of God. Divided into seven short sections, 150 questions and answers address the content and arrangement of the Psalter, Psalm genres and groupings, the historical context of the author, the Psalms relationship to the rest of Scripture and the life of Christ, and their use in private and public worship.

With appendixes that feature worksheets and charts, quotations from theologians and church fathers, this resource helps individuals, families, and churches understand and embrace the psalter for themselves.

This is a fine little book on the OT Psalter of the church, with the 150 questions and their answers giving Christians and the church today ample reason to sing the Psalms yet today, whether exclusively or predominantly. Think of it as a “catechism on the Psalms.” In addition, there are seven appendixes that treat special topics relating to the Psalms, such as “The Psalter in the New Testament”, “Martin Luther’s Favorite Psalms”, and “Arranging the Psalter in Your Head.” Charts and lists in this section add to the profit of the material covered.

As an example of the type of questions asked and answered, we quote two of them here:

8 How is the Psalter helpful to Christian saints?

There is no one book of Scripture that has been more helpful to Christian saints in all the ages of the church than the Psalter, ever since it was written. When we sing the Psalms we join our voices with true worshipers among the nations and throughout history who lift their souls to the Lord in faith (Psalm 25:1).

9 Why should Christians sing the Psalter?

Christians should sing the Psalter because the new covenant is like a marriage bond between God and his people, bringing joy and delight. But the main reason we ought to sing Psalms is because this practice is commanded by God through the apostles (p.4).

AbeBooks: The World’s Most Expensive Book

AbeBooks: The World’s Most Expensive Book.

And I am sure you are itching to know which book it is that carries this distinction of being the world’s most expensive book to date (as of Nov., 2013).

Is it perhaps an ancient manuscript from the 4th century? Is it maybe a rare Bible? How about a work of Cicero? or Shakespeare? Or perhaps a more modern piece of literature, something from C.S. Lewis?

Bay Psalm Book - 1640No, it is this book, a Psalter, or a special edition on the book of Psalms. Specifically, it is a rare copy of the Bay Psalm Book, dated 1640, considered by many to be the first book printed in what would become the United States of America.

Even though I featured this once before, Abe Books recently did a piece on it and I judged it worthy of notice once again. Plus, Abe Books has an interesting video to go with the story.

So, on this Friday, enjoy a slice of rare book history, a piece of American history, and a morsel of psalm book history. That is a meal hard to beat! ūüôā

Here is the opening part of Abe Books’ story on the Psalter. Be sure and visit the special webpage; it features many other striking and beautiful editions of the Psalter throughout history.

This is the world’s most expensive book. You are looking at the Bay Psalm Book printed in 1640, which sold at a Sotheby‚Äôs auction for $14.2 million on November 26, 2013.

The auction firm estimated the sale price would be between $15 million and $30 million – but the final price still ensured it became the world’s most expensive printed book. The world’s most expensive paper document is Leonardo da Vinci’s journal, Codex Leicester, which sold for $30.8 million in 1994.

The Bay Psalm Book was the first book printed in what became the United States and this copy was owned by the Old South Church in Boston. And guess what? The church also has another copy that will not be sold. At one time, this church owned FIVE copies.

This Bay Psalm Book now belongs to financer and philanthropist David Rubenstein who plans to loan it to various libraries across the United States.

The last Bay Psalm Book to be sold before this one was bought at a Sotheby’s auction in 1947 for $151,000 by representatives bidding on behalf of Yale University.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 150

Psalm 150On this final Lord’s Day of September we come to the end of the book of Psalms in our Sunday worship preparation devotionals, as we take a brief look at Psalm 150.

And while the Psalms are indeed a spiritual biography of the children of God, allowing us to see into the souls of the saints as they go through all of life’s experiences and express themselves with regard to these varied experiences, the Psalms are not really about God’s people. The book of Psalms is about God – all about God. God and His glorious character; God and His glorious works. God and His majestic work of creation. God and His sovereign work of providence. God and His might acts of salvation. God and His mercy and grace and faithfulness to His people in Jesus Christ and for His sake. Yes, God is the heart and soul of the Psalms!

And so the Psalms are all about praising this glorious God. This is a book of “Hallelujahs” – “Praise the Lord”. And as we have been seeing, this theme is coming to a climax at the end of the book of Psalms. Once again I quote from the¬†Nelson Study Bible as it aptly describes this last psalm: “Psalm 150, a psalm of praise, is a development of the Hebrew word¬†hallelujah, meaning ‘Praise the Lord.’ How fitting that this book of praises – the meaning of the name of the Book of Psalms in Hebrew – ends in repeated commands to praise the Lord” (1029).

Psalm 150, like Psalm 148, is a call to universal praise. That is, the psalmist calls for all creatures to praise the Lord – from those in heaven to those on earth – everything that has breath. And he calls for them to do this using all the means God has given, especially instruments of music. So that this too is a call to worship the Lord – in the sanctuary of His creation and in the sanctuary of His church.

As we prepare to enter that sanctuary of God this day, let us hear this call to praise our glorious God. Let us think on God and His glorious character. Let us ponder His mighty works – around us, as well as for us and in us. And as those who have received breath from God – even new breath from the Breath of God, the Holy Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ – let us respond with glad and grateful “hallelujahs.”

Psalm 150

Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.

2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.

3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.

4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.

5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.

6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

Psalter1912If you desire to¬†meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the¬†PRC Psalter page. Here is¬†one such versification, titled¬†“A Summons to Praise”¬†to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
In His temple God be praised;
In the high and heavenly places
Be the sounding anthem raised.

2. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
For his mighty acts of fame;
Excellent His might and greatness;
Fitting praises then proclaim.

3. Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah
With the trumpet’s joyful sound;
Praise with harp and praise with viol,
Let His glorious praise abound.

4. Hallelujah!  Praise Jehovah,
With the flute His praises sing;
Praise Him with the clanging cymbals,
Let them with His praises ring.

5. Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
All that breathe, Jehovah praise;
Let the voices God hath given
Joyful anthems to Him raise.

J.Calvin on Psalm 149: “…Praise is their continued exercise.”

JCalvinPic1To benefit further from the Word of God in Psalm 149, we also post here the comments of the great Reformer John Calvin on vss.1 and 2. It may be noted that Calvin places this Psalm in the post-exile period of Israel’s history, that is, after the return from captivity. Keep that in mind as you also profit from his thoughts.

 1. Sing to Jehovah a new song.

The object, I think, of the Psalmist, is to encourage them to expect the full and complete deliverance, some prelude of which had been suddenly and unexpectedly given in the permission to return. As the Church was not fully restored at once, but was with difficulty and only after a long period brought to a state of vigor, comfort such as this was much needed. The Spirit of God would also furnish a remedy for evils which were afterwards to break out; for the Church had scarcely begun to respire when it was again harassed with various evils, and oppressed by the cruel tyranny of Antiochus, which was followed up by a dreadful dispersion.

The Psalmist had good reason therefore for animating the godly to look forward for the full accomplishment of the mercy of God, that they might be persuaded of divine protection until such time as the Messiah should arise who would gather all Israel. He calls this a new song, as we have noticed elsewhere, to distinguish it from those with which the saints commonly and daily praised God, for praise is their continued exercise.

It follows that he speaks of some rare and unusual benefit, demanding signal and particular thanksgiving. And I am disposed to think that whoever may have been the author of the Psalm, he alludes to that passage in Isaiah, (Isaiah 42:10,) ‚ÄúSing unto the Lord a new song,‚ÄĚ when he speaks of the future restoration of the Church, and the eternal kingdom of Christ.

 

2. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker.

He insists upon the same point, that the Lord’s people should rest firmly persuaded that their family had not been chosen out in vain from the rest of the world, but that God would be mindful of his covenant, and not allow the mercies which he had extended to them to fail or become extinct. Although they had been temporarily deprived of the inheritance of the land of Canaan, which was the pledge of their adoption, the Psalmist calls God their Maker, and king of the sons of Zion, to remind them that when adopted to a pre-eminency above other nations, this was a species of new creation.

So in Psalm 45:6, the Israelites are called ‚Äúthe work of God‚Äôs hands,‚ÄĚ not merely because they were like other men created by him, but because he had formed them anew, and distinguished them with a new honor, that, of being separated front the whole human race.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 149

Psalm 149As our glorious Savior and King calls us once again this day to worship Him in “the congregation of saints”, we may prepare ourselves by considering the fourth “Hallelujah” psalm, Psalm 149. As you read through this portion of God’s Word, you will find it to be a joyful summons to praise the Lord, and as such, fitting for our public worship today in God’s house with His people.

In fact, v.2 specifically enjoins us to praise the Lord in public with our fellow saints, a point the Nelson Study Bible points out nicely: “One of the primary emphases in the Book of Psalms is that the praise of God is to take place in the center of the worshiping community. Praise unites the people of God (33:1-3)”.

Yes, and what a blessing it is that we are still able to do this openly and unhindered in our land! Let us not take this for granted, but thank our God for it. And let us gladly take advantage of every opportunity to gather with God’s people in praise our God! This Lord’s Day again affords us such opportunities.

The call to praise and worship the Lord, also as we have it here in Psalm 149, includes the fact that we must do so in joy. Notice that element too as you read this psalm (especially vss.2,5). God will not have us stand before Him with grumpy spirits, offering up grudging praise. He will not have us sing a new song with an old man soul, nor dance before Him with dragging feet and drooping hands.

No, He is the God of joy, the happy and blessed God, and in our worship He will have us match what He is, in spirit and in behavior. So let us rejoice and be joyful in our singing and dancing and playing (of instruments) this day (vss.2-3). Let us skip and sing, from renewed and thankful hearts. Why? Because God takes pleasure in us (Can you imagine that?!)! Because He will beautify the meek with salvation (v.4)! Yes, be clothed with Christ and you will have joy, boundless and endless joy!

You will also notice a “twist” in Psalm 149. The worshiping people of God go from joyful praise to swinging a two-edged sword and executing vengeance and judgment on the heathen (vss.6-9). What is going on? Why this? Because the church of Christ is at all times in this present world also the army of God. Always she is surrounded by her and His enemies, who hate and oppose her and Him. And against these foes she must do battle, fighting in the Lord’s name. As she marches into her holy warfare singing God’s praises, she is also to swing His sword of judgment.

While in the OT that warfare took on a physical form, with real swords and literal vengeance (as in the church’s conquest of Canaan), now the NT church swings the sword of the Lord’s Word, chiefly the preaching of the gospel among the nations. Yet, also when we sing God’s Word (as in these psalms!), we are wielding the “sword of the Lord” and executing His judgments against unbelieving enemies.

Let us be mindful of that too as we worship today. Worship is serious and dangerous business. Not only because we stand in the presence of the sovereign, all-glorious King of heaven and earth. But also because we are the instruments of His judgments on the wicked. May that humble us, so that we sing God’s praises and swing His sword only under the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ.

Psalm 149

Praise ye the Lord. Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise in the congregation of saints.

2Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.

4For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people: he will beautify the meek with salvation.

5Let the saints be joyful in glory: let them sing aloud upon their beds.

6Let the high praises of God be in their mouth, and a twoedged sword in their hand;

7To execute vengeance upon the heathen, and punishments upon the people;

8To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron;

9To execute upon them the judgment written: this honour have all his saints. Praise ye the Lord.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Psalter1912If you desire to¬†meditate on Psalm 149 through music, I encourage you to listen to one of the versifications of this psalm at the¬†PRC Psalter page. Here is¬†one such versification, titled¬†“The Promise of Victory”¬†to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

 

1. O praise ye the Lord
And sing a new song,
Amid all His saints
His praises prolong;
The praise of their Maker
His people shall sing,
And children of Zion
Rejoice in their King.

2. With timbrel and harp
And joyful acclaim,
With gladness and mirth,
Sing praise to His Name;
For God in His people
His pleasure doth seek,
With robes of salvation
He clotheth the meek.

3. In glory exult,
Ye saints of the Lord;
With songs in the night
High praises accord;
Go forth in His service
And strong in His might
To conquer all evil
And stand for the right.

4. For this is His word:
His saints shall not fail,
But over the earth
Their power shall prevail;
All kingdoms and nations
Shall yield to their sway.
To God give the glory
And praise Him for aye.

J.Calvin on Psalm 143: “…We must pray for the pardon of our sins.”

JCalvin1Also for¬†our¬†meditation on and profit from Psalm 143 this day we consider these comments of God’s Reformer, John Calvin. Here he reflects on v.2, where we learn again the importance of confessing our sins and casting ourselves upon God’s mercy in Christ. May these words too point us to the only gospel of comfort and hope in Jesus Christ.

2. And enter not into judgment, etc.

I have hinted already why he proceeds to pray for pardon. When overtaken by adversity, we are ever to conclude that it is a rod of correction sent by God to stir us up to pray. Although he is far from taking pleasure in our trials, it is certain that our sins are the cause of his dealing towards us with this severity. While those to whom David was opposed were wicked men, and he was perfectly conscious of the rectitude of his cause as regarded them, he freely acknowledged his sin before God as a condemned suppliant.

We are to hold this as a general rule in seeking to conciliate God, that we must pray for the pardon of our sins. If David found refuge nowhere else than in prayer for pardon, who is there amongst us who would presume to come before God trusting in his own righteousness and integrity? Nor does David here merely set an example before God’s people how they ought to pray, but declares that there is none amongst men who could be just before God were he called to plead his cause.

The passage is one fraught with much instruction, teaching us, as I have just hinted, that God can only show favor to us in our approaches by throwing aside the character of a judge, and reconciling us to himself in a gratuitous remission of our sins. All human righteousnesses, accordingly, go for nothing, when we come to his tribunal. This is a truth which is universally acknowledged in words, but which very few are seriously impressed with. As there is an indulgence which is mutually extended to one another amongst men, they all come confidently before God for judgment, as if it were as easy to satisfy him as to gain man’s approval.

In order to obtain a proper view of the whole matter, we are first to note what is meant by being justified. The passage before us clearly proves that the man who is justified, is he who is judged and reckoned just before God, or whom the heavenly Judge himself acquits as innocent. Now, in denying that any amongst men can claim this innocence, David intimates that any righteousness which the saints have is not perfect enough to abide God’s scrutiny, and thus he declares that all are guilty before God, and can only be absolved in the way of acknowledging they might justly be condemned.

Had perfection been a thing to be found in the world, he certainly of all others was the man who might justly have boasted of it; and the righteousness of Abraham and the holy fathers was not unknown to him; but he spares neither them nor himself, but lays it down as the one universal rule of conciliating God, that we must cast ourselves upon his mercy.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 143

Psalm 143Our psalm for consideration this Lord’s Day as we prepare for worship of our heavenly Father is Psalm 143. According to the heading, this prayer-song too was penned by David, the “sweet psalmist of Israel”. This psalm is considered to be the last of the seven “penitential” psalms, expressing confession of sin (see especially vs.2 below, as well as Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130).

A quick reading of this psalm will reveal that it is a powerful prayer consisting of a series of urgent petitions. But because it is a penitential-prayer psalm, we want to take our time reading it, meditating on David’s needs and petitions while considering our own, and taking this song with us as we prepare for worship. For if our Father’s house is the “house of prayer” (Is.56:7; Matt.11:17), then we surely want to take these petitions with us today as we come into the presence of our God.

Reflect then carefully on these inspired words:

Psalm 143

Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me,and in thy righteousness.

2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.

3 For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.

4 Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.

6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.

7 Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

9 Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.

10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.

12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

Let’s take a brief look at each of David’s petitions in this psalm. First, David begins by asking the Lord to hear him and answer him. This is not raised in fear and doubt about the Lord’s ability or desire to hear him, but in the keen awareness of his own urgent need. His situation is desperate, as the rest of the psalm indicates. His enemies have been on the attack and his life is hanging in the balance (v.3). David’s spirit is overwhelmed and he feels all alone (v.4). And so, as he goes to his God, he immediately asks to be heard.

In fact, if we go down to v.7, we see that he also asks to be heard “speedily”. If God does not respond to his plea for help right away, he feels he will perish. His spirit is failing (v.7), and so he needs the Lord not merely at some point in the day but immediately! “Give ear to my supplications” right now, Lord! I need Thee every hour, and I need Thee this very moment!” That is why He also says in v.6 that he stretches forth his hands to the Lord. His hands are out in urgent need because his soul is thirsty for God. God is his all and all that he needs!

Do we understand such need, fellow worshipers? Do we too feel the urgency of our petitions when we make them? Are we thirsty for God, such that when we pray out of real need our hands are held out to Him? Or are our prayers just routine and our supplications too casual? No matter what our circumstance is, we always need the Lord. And we always need Him at that moment. So let us learn to pray with David, “Hear my prayer, O LORD.”

You will note that David appeals to God’s faithfulness and righteousness in asking to be heard and answered. ¬†That too is important to keep in mind. That too shows that David prayed in true faith, as we must. God will hear us because He is our faithful Father, Who loves us and Who gave His Son for us so that the way would be open for us to go to Him and ask Him for anything according to our real need. And He will answer us because He is righteous, perfectly just (right and fair) to grant us what we need according to His sovereign will.

Yet that righteousness of God also reminds David (and ourselves!) that he is a sinner who cannot stand before this righteous Judge in his own works or merits. And so, secondly, David prays that God not enter into judgment with him. And the reason is simple: in God’s sight no man is or can be justified. We recognize this as the “dark side” of the doctrine of justification (see Romans 3:20 and Gal.2:16). We have no righteousness of our own to hold us up and give us a hearing before the holy and just God. All our “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is.64:6). And so if God the righteous Judge enters into judgment with us, we are condemned as guilty sinners and damned to hell.

But there is also a “bright side” to justification, shined by the light of the gospel of salvation by grace alone in Christ alone through faith alone. That precious light is that the righteous Judge Himself has made and provided a perfect righteousness for sinners through the perfect work of Jesus Christ – through His death on Calvary and through His obedience to God’s righteous law. And so, all our righteousness is in Christ, and His beautiful robe replaces our filthy rags when we trust in Him alone.

It was in that knowledge and trust that David approached his Lord. Yes, his Lord was Jesus, the great “I am” to come. And in promise and hope of His coming and His perfect work to be accomplished, David prayed what he did in v.2. He was a penitent sinner. And as such he was also a justified sinner. Shall we also learn to pray this way? In sorrow for our sin and in hope of Christ? In that way too we shall be heard!

Thirdly, David petitioned his God for spiritual direction (vss.8,10). Beseeching God to have him hear His lovingkindness first thing in the morning, he wanted to know the way he should go in this midst of this persecution-trial. And thus he asked God to teach him to do His will and to lead him in the way of uprightness. We can understand this need, I trust. One of the great temptations that fall on us when we are being attacked by enemies is to resort to their tactics. Satan wants us to be filled with hate, to lose our perspective in sinful anger, and then respond sinfully – both to God and to the persecuting neighbor. And according to our fallen nature, this is what comes so easy to us.

David knew that and prayed in essence, “Don’t let me fall into this trap, Lord. Don’t let me follow the devil’s way and my own sinful way in this trial, but You make me know the right way to respond and lead me to do it. I trust in Thee and I trust the good work of Thy Holy Spirit. Make me alive by that Spirit (v.11), and I will do the right thing – for Thy glory and for my good.” Shall we also learn to make these our requests in our trials? How necessary and important!

Fourth, and finally, David also asked the Lord for deliverance (vss.9, 11). While he knew that this trial was of the Lord and that he must submit to the Lord’s way for him, he also wanted to be rescued from these deadly foes; he desired his soul to be brought out of trouble. He longed for peace and rest. There is no conflict in these two sides to our trials. God is sovereign and brings such trials in our lives. And we are called to submit to Him and trust Him fully.

Yet at the same time, we do not wish to live in persecution and pain, to be so low in life and soul. From our perspective our need is to be free of troubles and to enjoy peace and joy. And so we ask as David did, “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies. Bring my soul out of trouble.” Is that not our experience, whatever our troubles are? Even Jesus, Who knew perfectly that the cross was God’s way for Him, prayed for deliverance from it (Matt.26:39). Such petitions are also the will of God for us. Such requests we may also make confidently, yet humbly and submissively.

And so, as we come into the Lord’s house of prayer this day, may we bring this prayer of David before the Throne of Grace. This is the prayer our Father delights to hear. This is the prayer that praises and glorifies Him. This is the prayer that speaks to our great needs. And our God has the great grace that answers to all those needs. “For Jesus’ sake. Amen!”

Psalter1912If you desire to¬†meditate on Psalm 143 through music, I encourage you to listen to a versification of this psalm at the¬†PRC Psalter page. Here is¬†one such versification, titled “Contrite Trust”,¬†to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

1. Lord, hear me in distress,
Regard my suppliant cry,
And in Thy faithfulness
And righteousness reply.
In judgment do not cause
Thy servant to be tried;
Before Thy holy laws
No man is justified.

2. The enemy has sought
My soul in dust to tread;
To darkness I am brought,
Forgotten as the dead.
My spirit, crushed with grief,
Is sad and overborne;
My heart finds no relief,
But desolate I mourn.

3. Recalling former days
And all Thy wondrous deeds,
The memory of Thy ways
To hope and comfort leads.
To Thee I stretch my hands,
Let me not plead in vain;
I wait as weary lands
Wait for refreshing rain.

4. My failing spirit see,
O Lord, to me make haste;
Hide not Thy face from me,
Lest bitter death I taste.
O let the morn return,
Let mercy light my day;
For Thee in faith I yearn,
O guide me in the way.

5. Lord, save me from my foe,
To Thee for help I flee;
Teach me Thy way to know,
I have no God but Thee.
By Thy good Spirit led
From trouble and distress,
My erring feet shall tread
The path of uprightness.

6. O Lord, for Thy Name’s sake
Revive my fainting heart;
My soul from trouble take,
For just and true Thou art.
Remove my enemy,
My cruel foe reward;
In mercy rescue me
Who am Thy servant, Lord.

Good Psalm Music for Pentecost

Book of PsalmsWe may not think that the Psalms reveal much about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, but this is a mistake. The book of Psalms frequently refer to the Holy Spirit and His wonderful operations in creation, providence and redemption. I give you just a few examples in this post, so that you may have some good Psalm music to listen to on this Pentecost Sunday.

1. In Psalm 51 David prays specifically that God will not cast him away from His presence by taking His Holy Spirit from him (v.11), expressed in this versification from the Psalter used in worship by the PRC (Ps.#141). You will find the full arrangement with piano accompaniment here.

1. Gracious God, my heart renew,
Make my spirit right and true;
Cast me not away from Thee,
Let Thy Spirit dwell in me;
Thy salvation’s joy impart,
Steadfast make my willing heart.

2. In Psalm 104:30 the work of the Spirit in creation and providence is noted, and in Psalter #287 it is put into these words in the opening stanza (follow the link to listen to this versification):

1. Thy Spirit, O Lord, makes life to abound;
The earth is renewed and fruitful the ground;
To God ascribe glory and wisdom and might,
Let God in His creatures forever delight.

3. The young women of the Chamber Choir of Covenant Christian High (2013) sing a versification of Psalm 143 from the 1912 Psalter (#391). Note especially the third stanza (at the link provided here).

 

J.Calvin on Psalm 135: “Otherwise we may be led …to spend our labor upon trifles.”

JCalvin1Also for our meditation on Psalm 135 today we post these thoughts of the great Reformer and Bible commentator John Calvin. Here he remarks on vss.1 and 5. May his good thoughts also stimulate us to faithful, spiritual worship this day.

1. Praise ye the name of Jehovah

…Particular attention is to be paid to those passages of Scripture which speak in such high terms of that worship of God which is spiritual; otherwise we may be led, in the exercise of a misguided zeal, to spend our labor upon trifles, and in this respect imitate the example of too many who have wearied themselves with ridiculous attempts to invent additions to the service of God, while they have neglected what is of all other things most important.

This is the reason why the Holy Spirit so repeatedly inculcates the duty of praise. It is that we may not undervalue, or grow careless in this devotional exercise. It implies, too, an indirect censure of our tardiness in proceeding to the duty, for he would not reiterate the admonition were we ready and active in the discharge of it.

5. For I know that Jehovah is great 

We have here a general description of the power of God, to show the Israelites that the God they worshipped was the same who made the world, and rules over all according to his will, neither is there any other besides him. He would not exclude others when he speaks of having known himself the greatness of God, but is rather to be considered as taking occasion from his own experience to stir up men generally to attend to this subject, and awake to the recognition of what lies abundantly open to observation.

The immensity of God is what none can comprehend; still his glory, so far as was seen fit, has been sufficiently manifested to leave all the world without excuse for ignorance. How can one who has enjoyed a sight of the heavens and of the earth shut his eyes so as to overlook the Author of them without sin of the deepest dye? It is with the view, then, of stirring us up more effectually, ‚ÄĒ that the Psalmist makes reference to himself in inviting us to the knowledge of God‚Äôs glory; or rather he reprehends our carelessness in not being alive enough to the consideration of it.

The second part of the verse makes the truth of the observation which I have already stated still more apparent, ‚ÄĒ that the Psalmist‚Äôs design was to retain the Israelites in the service and fear of the one true God, by a declaration to the effect that the God who covenanted with their Fathers was the same who created heaven and earth, No sooner had he made mention of Jehovah than he adds his being the God of Israel.

It follows as a necessary consequence, that all who depart from this God prefer a god who has no claim to the title, and that Jews and Turks, for example, in our own day, are guilty of mere trifling when they pretend to worship God the Creator of the world. Where persons have diverged from the law and from the gospel, any show of piety they may have amounts to a renunciation of the true God.

Sunday Worship Preparation – Psalm 135

Psalm135For our worship preparation meditation this Lord’s Day we take leave of the songs of degrees (ascent) and move on to Psalm 135. A first glance at this song of the OT church (and now ours, the NT church) will show us how fitting it is too for our worship and for preparing our hearts and souls for our activities in the Lord’s house. Here is the Word of God in this song:

Psalm 135

Praise ye the Lord. Praise ye the name of the Lord; praise him, O ye servants of theLord.

2 Ye that stand in the house of the Lord, in the courts of the house of our God,

3 Praise the Lord; for the Lord is good: sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.

4 For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure.

5 For I know that the Lord is great, and that our Lord is above all gods.

6 Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.

7 He causeth the vapours to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain; he bringeth the wind out of his treasuries.

8 Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.

9 Who sent tokens and wonders into the midst of thee, O Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his servants.

10 Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;

11 Sihon king of the Amorites, and Og king of Bashan, and all the kingdoms of Canaan:

12 And gave their land for an heritage, an heritage unto Israel his people.

13 Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations.

14 For the Lord will judge his people, and he will repent himself concerning his servants.

15 The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.

16 They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;

17 They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.

18 They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.

19 Bless the Lord, O house of Israel: bless the Lord, O house of Aaron:

20 Bless the Lord, O house of Levi: ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord.

21 Blessed be the Lord out of Zion, which dwelleth at Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.

Appropriately the psalm begins and closes with a “Hallelujah” – “Praise ye the LORD.” This is the theme of our worship – public and private, corporate and personal. We were created and redeemed to praise the eternal, sovereign, covenant Lord of heaven and earth. We are the servants of this Lord, called to do His will in all of life, also and especially when we gather for public worship. When we stand in His house and courts, we are summoned to lift up our hearts and voices in praise to Him, just as the priests and Levites did in the temple.

And this psalm tells us why we should offer that praise continually when we worship. It is because the Lord is good and great. It is because He has chosen His beloved church to be His “peculiar treasure.” It is because He is the only true and living God in distinction from all lifeless and hopeless idols. And it is because He alone therefore is the Savior of His people, Whose saving acts throughout history have been sovereignly carried out for the deliverance of His church. The Lord our God has no equals nor rivals! Let Him alone be praised then!

You will notice a close similarity between this psalm and Psalm 115 (for more on that one, go here.). The psalmist who wrote Psalm 135 clearly had that Word of God before him and believed it was worth repeating. The Word of God is like that, and we do well to repeat these beautiful lines ourselves, in our hearts and in our worship together, today and throughout our lives.

Besides, do we not only know the truths expressed in this psalm for ourselves, but have we not also experienced them in our own age of church history and in our own lives? Shall we not recall the Lord’s goodness and greatness to us and our generation? Shall we not glory in His sovereign, elective grace to us by which we have become His special treasure? Shall we not recount His mighty deeds of deliverance for us? Shall we not therefore mock all the vain idols of man, including those we once trusted, and confess Jehovah to be God alone? And shall we not begin and end our worship with Hallelujahs?

If we fear Him, i.e., stand in awe of Him and love and delight in Him, then we will bless the Lord out of Zion. For there He dwells with us in blessed covenant fellowship. Praise ye the Lord!

PsalterAppIf you desire to meditate on Psalm 115 through music, I encourage you to listen to some versifications of this psalm at the PRC Psalter page. Here is one such versification to get you started (Visit the link to hear piano accompaniment and sing along.):

Invitations to Praise

1. Exalt the Lord, His praise proclaim;
All ye His servants, praise His Name,
Who in the Lord’s house ever stand
And humbly serve at His command.

2. The Lord is good, His praise proclaim;
Since it is pleasant, praise His Name;
Who in the Lord’s house ever stand
And humbly serve at His command.

3. I know the Lord is high in state,
Above all gods our Lord is great;
The Lord performs what He decrees,
In heaven and earth, in depths and seas.

4. He makes the vapors to ascend
In clouds from earth’s remotest end;
The lightnings flash at His command,
He holds the tempest in His hand.

5. Forever praise and bless His Name,
And in the Church His praise proclaim;
In Zion is His dwellingplace;
Praise ye the Lord, show forth His grace.